Isis Theater readies for grand reopening | AspenTimes.com

Isis Theater readies for grand reopening

Janet UrquhartAspen Times Staff Writer

Blockbusters, family films, art-house flicks, plus cappuccino and gourmet chocolate – the Isis Theater will have it all, vows its new operator.The carpeting and seats are being steam-cleaned, the windows are washed, and the screens are back in place. Eighteen months’ worth of dust is being wiped from every surface.A busy crew is scurrying to make things ready for the Aspen theater’s long-awaited reopening on Friday afternoon.The man behind it all, Marshall Smith, was on the phone Monday, discussing, what else, the movies.The president of Idaho-based Rocky Mountain Resort Cinemas is fielding a multitude of questions, exchanging thumbs-ups with passersby on Hopkins Avenue and nervously counting the days and hours until Friday.”We can’t wait to get the theater open,” he said.Aspen, perhaps, shares his sentiment – if the outpouring of dismay when it closed is any indication.Smith and his wife, Karen, arrived in town Sunday to oversee the opening of their newest theater operation after finalizing a lease to run the Isis late last month.”It has taken us a long time to get here,” Smith said. “We’ve been working with the Isis people for about a year.”Rocky Mountain Resort Cinemas is a family business that currently operates Ski Time Cinemas, a two-screen theater in Sun Valley, along with a movie house in Laramie, Wyo. Smith said he’s currently looking at additional theaters in three other resorts, as well.But now his focus is on the Isis, which has been closed for a year and a half, since Resort Theaters of America abruptly pulled its operation out of Aspen shortly after it filed for bankruptcy.Smith said he wants to make the Isis a community venue, with room for use by the local groups that have already inquired about using the theater for fund-raisers and benefits.”The answer is yes. It always will be,” said Smith, who said he has also been in contact with Aspen Filmfest, which at one time made its home in the Isis.”We have owned theaters like this before – that are treasures of the community,” he said. “We always feel like the building belongs to the community. We’re just the custodians. That’s the way we feel about this theater.”With five screens, Smith said he plans to offer a rotation of big releases, family movies and art films, when good ones are available.In keeping with his word to offer more than just the studio releases, Smith is bringing “Big Fat Greek Wedding” to the Isis for the theater’s grand opening.”It’s doing very well in the art houses, extremely well,” he said. Also scheduled to open Friday are “Lilo & Stitch,” rated PG; “The Bourne Identity” starring Matt Damon; “Windtalkers” with Nicholas Cage; and the animated “Spirit: Stallion of the Cimarron” sharing a screen with “About A Boy,” starring Hugh Grant.Smith is promising future surprises at the concession stand, but he has already acquired a frozen-yogurt maker and a cappuccino machine. In addition to the usual candies and popcorn, he also plans to serve hot dogs, nachos and Ghirardelli chocolates.Youths age 17 and under will be admitted for the $5 student price for all shows, he said.Smith said he has already hired several Aspen High School film club students, who will learn to operate the projection equipment. Altogether, he’ll hire 15 to 18 people from a pool of some 75 applicants.Rocky Mountain Resort Cinemas has a long-term lease for the theater, Smith said, though the building remains for sale.”Suffice it to say we’re happy with our deal, and we want to be here for a long time,” he said.Smith declined to discuss the particulars of his lease, or the opportunity for a new Isis owner to convert part of the ground floor to another use, but he expressed confidence that the Isis will remain a five-screen cinema.”I have a say in it,” he said.Smith said he is not a prospective buyer of the theater, having just spent quite a bit simply to reopen the doors.”We’ve got a lot of money in this theater right now, just re-outfitting it,” he said. “It’s a big investment.”Having crunched the numbers, Smith expressed confidence that the new operation can succeed where RTA failed. Aspen also has the three-screen Stage 3 Theatres and the Wheeler Film Society, which brings movies to the Wheeler Opera House.But the Isis, Smith noted, is “a tremendous venue,” from its large screens to its state-of-the-art sound system and plush, stadium seating.”I’m really excited about what we have to work with. This theater has the best sound system west of Denver,” he said.”The main thing is, we want to get people back into the movies the way they were meant to be seen – and this is the place.”

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